Economies of Language

Teaching and learning the English language has become a massive
global industry. And it’s not just grammar and vocabulary students
learn. Teaching culture is part and parcel to language,
Traves writes for This Magazine

Cultural context clarifies idioms and subtle meanings. ‘Let’s do
lunch,’ for example, does not mean show up at noon tomorrow.
Speaking English means adopting the cultural codes embedded in it,
and as English proliferates, other dialects and customs can get

‘We’re trying to come to grips with the effect of globalization
on language teaching,’ Ian Martin, Professor of English at York
University’s Glendon College in Toronto, tells Traves. ‘Do we want
a globalization that is going to be assimilationist to Western
models of communication only?’

English has an undeniable edge as a global language. ‘If there
is a shortcut to development, it is English; parents understand
that, kids understand that,’

Munh-Orgil Tsend, foreign minister of Mongolia, recently told the
New York Times
. Two billion people are expected to be
learning it by 2010,
Coughlan reports for BBC News
, and many countries are
embedding English-language learning into their school systems.
Venture capitalists are putting their money behind businesses
moving into China,

Katherine Heires reports in Business Week
. These
western companies hire locally, and multilingual candidates have a
clear advantage.

So far, English has hitched a ride to prevalence on the backs of
such western corporations based in leading economies. But it may
have some competition soon. China’s economy is expected to increase
30-fold by 2050, and for businesspeople worldwide, that could mean
brushing up on Chinese too.

Go there >>
Church of Please and Thank You

Go there too >>

For Mongolians, E Is for English, F is for Future

Related Links:

Related Links from the Utne

Comments? Story tips?
Write a letter to the editor

Like this? Want more?Subscribe to Utne

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.